One of the doctors credited with discovering the Omicron variant of coronavirus says the media’s vast overreaction is unwarranted.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee told Reuters that the hype “that’s been created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn’t correlate with the clinical picture. She added, “It doesn’t warrant to just cut us off from traveling and bans South Africa as if we are the villains in the whole process—should not be like that.”
Dr. Coetzee said that so far those who she has observed infected with omicron were showing mild symptoms and that “there’s no reason for panicking as we don’t see severely ill patients.”
Coetzee said that “I also checked with the hospital, some of the hospitals in my area, and one of the biggest hospitals they only have one patient currently that’s COVID-positive on a ventilator, and they don’t even know whether it’s COVID — you know it’s Delta- or whether it is Omicron-related.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed his frustration with foreign nations—including the United States—who have banned flights to and from South Africa and seven other southern African nations due to omicron.
Ramaphosa said, “We are deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of Southern African countries following the identification of the Omicron variant.”
He continued, “These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant.”
On Friday, the Biden administration announced travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens from South Africa and seven other African nations effective Monday. The ban applies to non-U.S. citizens from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
The World Health Organization on Friday assigned the Greek letter Omicron to the newly identified Covid variant in South Africa.
The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the latest virus strain but urged caution until more is known about the seriousness of the strain.
WHO Covid-19 expert Maria Van Kerkhove said, “We’re calling a special meeting to discuss this, not to cause alarm, but because we have this system in place.”
“We can bring these scientists together and discuss ‘What does it mean?’ and also set the timeline for how long it will take for us to get those answers,” Van Kerkhove added.
The new African variant was found in two patient samples taken as early as August and October in Nigeria. However, the seriousness of transmissibility and mortality rates is still not known.
The leader of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkensgasong, implored people to be patient and to “give us some time…it’s very early.” He added: “It’s a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa.”
So far, despite warnings from doctors like Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the media and foreign governments have indeed fallen for the “hype” surrounding the omicron variant.